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Chelsea 20/21 Keep, Sell, Loan: GK/Defenders Review

Consistency!

The goalkeeping/defending department of Chelsea for the 20/21 season was the shining light under both managers. There was a clear improvement in our defensive performances and by the end of the season we were one of the best teams in terms of clean sheets in and chances conceded in Europe. 

Goalkeepers 

Edouard Mendy

Edouard Mendy was signed from Rennes during the summer for a fee of around 21.6 million pounds. Mendy had been recommended to the board and Lampard by Petr Cech and the board were able to sign him. Mendy had a stellar first season in Chelsea blue and is one of the best goalkeepers in Europe in current form. Mendy made 31 appearances in the league conceded 25 goals and kept 16 clean sheets. In the Champions League Mendy made 12 appearances conceded 3 goals and kept 9 clean sheets, a record for a debut goalkeeper in the competition. Mendy’s save percentage in the league stood at 70.5 while he was only behind Ederson in clean sheets. Mendy also faced 78 shots on target the fewest by any goalkeeper which is also a testament to our defence. This is the first time a Chelsea goalkeeper has reached a 70% save percentage since Courtois in 16/17 and he faced 99 shots on target. In the Champions League Mendy had a saver percentage of 90.9 while the 9 clean sheets were of course more than anyone else. Mendy was a massive improvement his command of the box and wing span allowed him to make saves while also dominating in the air. One underrated component of Mendy’s game was his ability to play out from the back. Mendy’s passing was very good and it helped set up some good pieces of play. If this was an audition season for Mendy he has passed with flying colors and won a Champions League as well. There is no doubt who Chelsea’s no.1 is. KEEP.

Kepa Arizzabalaga 

After last season this season was always going to be one with limited minutes for Kepa. The Spaniard took a massive hit to his confidence and it was good for him to step out of the limelight this season. Kepa made 7 appearances in the league conceding 5 and keeping 2 clean sheets. Kepa was the FA Cup goalkeeper as he made 6 appearances in the competition conceding 2 goals and keeping 4 clean sheets. Under Tuchel Kepa bounced back and he was able to regain some of the confidence and capability he showed under Sarri. Sarri is now at Lazio and it is said he is keen on reuniting with Kepa. Selling Kepa will be a tall order but a loan could be possible although his wages might need to be split. A change of scenery is key for him and with Mendy sealing the starting spot a young keeper like Kepa needs consistent minutes. Sell or Loan. 

Willy Caballero

Willy only made 2 appearances in all comps for Chelsea in 20/21 conceding 3 goals and keeping one clean sheet. A Champions League medal to add to his final season at the club will be a good end to his Chelsea career. Willy did extremely well and he was crucial over the last few seasons when we needed someone to step in. Willy’s contract with Chelsea will end on June 30th at which time he will leave Chelsea, so good luck to Willy and he will always be remembered fondly by the Chelsea fans. LEFT. 

Defenders – Right Backs 

Cesar Azpilicueta

Cesar Azpilicueta officially joined the tier of legendary players to captain Chelsea. The Spaniard has now won it all at the club as he lifted our 2nd Champions League title at the end of the season. It was a memorable moment and I could think of no player who deserves it more. Azpilicueta has been a constant throughout his Chelsea career no matter where he was asked to play he did his duty and fulfilled it very well. Azpilicueta made 26 appearances in the league scoring 1 goal and assisting 2 as he was rotated and at times dropped under Lampard. Under Tuchel he became a mainstay either in the back 3 or as a wing back. Azpi made 11 appearances in the Champions League with 4 in the FA Cup and 2 in the League Cup. The number of tackles were considerably less compared to last season with only 51 and 31 being successful. Azpilicueta is now 31 and with Reece James playing more Azpi’s minutes should continue to be limited. Azpilicueta will have his games next season for sure but I don’t see him starting week in week out like he did under Tuchel. KEEP. 

Reece James

Reece James made had a brilliant season as right back and then as a right wing back even playing right centre back at times. Reece made 32 appearances in total in the league scoring 1 goal and assisting 2. Similar to last season he should have had way more assists but we really lacked in our finishing. Reece made 10 appearances in the Champions League scoring 1 while he made 5 in the FA Cup scoring 2. Under Lampard Reece was a constant at the right back spot playing over Azpi while under Tuchel he was a constant at right wing back and at times like against Leicester he played right centre back. Reece continued to improve this season and his particular handling of Sterling and Vardy during the final games of the season showed how he continues to grow. Strong, fast with a beautiful delivery, Reece is an all round full back and he is good enough at wing back. James will continue to grow at Chelsea and is a nailed on starter for next season. KEEP. 

Defenders – Centre Backs

Kurt Zouma

Zouma had a season of two halves like the whole squad did. Straight off of the end of last season where he was a mainstay at the back Zouma continued to start under Lampard with Thiago Silva as his partner. It worked well for that unbeaten run and it looked like we had found our solid pairing at the back. Of course a run of 5-6 poor results which saw Lampard get the sack also saw Zouma get dropped. Under Tuchel Zouma made a handful of appearances starting 7 out of 19 games in the league as opposed to the 15 in Lampard’s 19 games. Still well called upon in a back 3 or a back 4 Zouma like the whole defence was on point and especially under Tuchel he performed the role of a LCB perfectly. Zouma made a total of 24 appearances in the league with 5 goals making him one of the leading goal scorers in the league. Elsewhere Zouma made 5 appearances in the FA Cup, 5 in the Champions League and 2 in the League Cup. I don’t believe that Zouma needs to leave or be sold because I think our defence is sorted. Zouma needs to decide for himself though if he wants to leave to play regularly. Rumours are that he is one of the players available for a sale. For me though its a.. KEEP.

Andreas Christensen

Andreas Christensen was one of the defenders that benefited once Tuchel became the manager. Christensen only made 4 starts under Lampard in the league as opposed to the 9 stars he made under Tuchel. Christensen was mainly used as a back up to either Azpilicueta or Silva in a back 3 but mostly Thiago Silva. Two of the most notable performances during the latter half of the season came when he stepped in for Silva against Spurs and in the Champions League final. Christensen made a total of 27 appearances in all comps but given the levels of performances he put in under Tuchel I expect him to start a lot more at the centre of the defence next season. Christensen looks like a different player, one who is more confident and can command from the back. The greatest compliment that can be given to Christensen is that he was seen as the weak link in the centre backs at the end of last season. Cut to now where he is one of the best. Still only 25 there is plenty of room to grow but physically he already seems to have bulked up and can handle challenges in better fashion. The Dane is having a stellar Euro campaign as well and there is talk of a contract extension with only one year left on his current deal. KEEP. 

Antonio Rudiger

Rudiger had a complete 180 in terms of his 20/21 season. Under Lampard Rudiger was a fringe player starting 2 games in the league in 2020. Lampard then went through the poor run of form and with murmurs of discontent Rudiger found his way back into the team. Rudiger then started Lampard’s final 2 games in the league. What may or may not have happened between Lampard and Rudiger was a big talking point and it saw him get heavy criticism from Chelsea fans. I have to say I for one was one of those who didn’t want to see him play again for the club. Tuchel came in and took the German under his arm and what came next basically put every Chelsea fan in his place. To say that Rudiger is now one of the best centre back’s in Europe would not be an overstatement. Rudiger made 15 starts under Tuchel in the league while also being a nailed on starter in the FA Cup and the Champions League campaign. Leadership, strength, no more silly mistakes, pace. Rudiger seemed to be performing at his best level. It was an amazing 2nd half of the campaign. 34 appearances in total 1 goal 1 assist. A highlight for Rudiger’s season would have to include his CL knockout games because he was a rock at the back. If you want to see how far Rudiger has come since the end of last season you can see last years review where I called him a “squad level defender at best and a must sell”. Rudiger has 1 year left on his contract and he is now 28 so the next one should be his final big contract. Chelsea are talking about an extension and based on current form Rudiger has to sign it. KEEP. 

Thiago Silva

Wow. Thiago Silva is one of those players I have been following since he played at Milan. I really believed he was one of the best defenders to ever play the game and when he signed for Chelsea it was a dream come true. Silva started the season with a knock but as soon as he was fit he was in the starting XI. Under Lampard he started 14 games as one of the centre backs while he started 14 under Tuchel as he missed 5 due to injury. In the Champions League Silva started 3 of the group games while starting 3 of the knockout games as well including both legs against Real Madrid. Silva did start against City in the final but had to come off due to injury. There is no doubt why he started so many games though. Silva was effortless whether he was playing long balls to wingers or just commanding at the back. The pace might not be there but he is just so smart in anticipating the play. It’s no surprise that Silva and Chelsea have already chosen to extend his contract for next season having finally achieved the one trophy he was missing in Europe the Champions League. One more year of Silva and one more year of his wife Belle Silva as well who is Chelsea’s biggest fan already. KEEP. 

Defenders – Left Backs

Ben Chilwell

Chilwell had a stellar debut season for Chelsea. Chelsea bought him from Leicester for around 45 million pounds which many felt was too much. Chilwell only went and sat everyone down. The left back started the season brilliantly but tailed off during that poor run of form. Under Tuchel Chilwell had to learn how to play as a left back and eventually got his foot into the starting lineup. Chilwell made 15 starts under Lampard while he started 10 games under Tuchel startng 5 of the last 6. In the league he also managed to get 3 goals and 5 assists. In the Champions League he made 10 appearances scoring 1 goal which came against Porto while he also made 3 appearances in the FA Cup and 2 in the League Cup. Chilwell has the pace to get up and down and has a very good left foot to deliver crosses and take shots from. Some memorable moments were his goal against Porto and his shackling of Mahrez in the Champions League final. Only 24 Chilwell is only going to continue to improve and at Chelsea there is a feeling that we might have finally found a good enough replacement for Ashley Cole. KEEP. 

Marcos Alonso

Alonso did not have the best of seasons in terms of game time but still managed to have some memorable moments culminating in a Champions League winners medal. Under Lampard Alonso started the first two games because Chilwell was injured but he was subbed off at half time during that 3-3 draw against West Brom and was not seen in the squad until Tuchel arrived. Under Tuchel he started 8 games and notably got crucial goals against Burnley and the winner against Man City. Alonso also started both legs against Atletico Madrid. It was clear that Alonso was starting so Chilwell could get caught up with how to play at left wing back. Once Chilly had learned then Alonso’s minutes reduced even under Tuchel. Alonso has been a very solid player for Chelsea and is only missing a League Cup having now won everything else with the club. A sale abroad seems possible and probably will happen this season. SELL. 

Emerson

Emerson had another season on the bench and got very few chances under both managers. Emerson made a total of 15 appearances for Chelsea this season scoring 1 goal although that was a memorable one in the Champions League. Emerson has always been professional and never kicked up a fuss but clearly he’s only 26 and will want to play more regularly and be a starter. Sadly it hasn’t worked out but he would leave Chelsea with 3 trophies. SELL. 

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